About two years ago I remember Ralph Gilles, the now former CEO of the now former SRT Brand, telling me that the new SRT Viper’s design was inspired by “a naked woman on the beach.”
I recall thinking to myself that a Viper should never be the sexy women on the beach, but instead this true American supercar should be the muscle bound hulk who kicks sand in your face and steals your sexy girl. Let’s face it, the Viper has always been the four-wheeled equivalent of Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy. But instead, Chrysler decided to go a different direction by making the new Viper a strange hybrid mashup of European supercar-inspired design and premium performance. Needless to say, this approach is not working. In fact, back in March according to Autoweek,
“Chrysler has made the decision to suspend production of the SRT Viper for a least two months, citing slow sales. The move is expected to result in layoffs of 91 hourly workers at Chrysler’s Conner Avenue Assembly plant in Detroit. Back in October of 2013, Chrysler cut Viper production by a third, citing slow sales and growing inventories. Just 91 examples of the sports car were sold during January and February of this year, and as of March 1, dealers reported an unsold stock of 756 cars — a 412-day supply.”
The new car market has spoken and the word is that the Viper is not a sales success.
But that doesn’t mean the Viper is dead. Far from it. This American snake still represent one of the best known All-American supercars. The Viper has huge and loyal following and that’s easy money in the bank for Chrysler. With a few smart mid-cycle tweaks the new Dodge Viper SRT can ride into the happy sales sunset.
Chrysler will tell you that the current new engine which produces “only” 640-horsepower, and 600-pound-foot is no longer a truck engine, but when you drive the Viper and only hear one side of the exhaust note pound out from the driver’s side exhaust side pipe you’d swear you’re in a truck. A V-10 with side pipes that splits the exhaust note just doesn’t evoke that classic Harley-like rollin’ thunder cacophony of exhaust. Yes, I know the Viper has traditionally been V-10 powered, but what’s the point of this calling card when hardly anyone is buying the car?
However, in the process Dodge will have to find another 100-horsepower from the Hellcat engine so that the total output of the Hellcat Viper would be a staggering 807-horsepower. I’ve spoken with the engineer in charge of the Hellcat V-8 and I can promise you that motor can and will be tuned for at least additional an 100-horsepower when the aftermarket gets their hands on one.
3) Refresh the Viper’s style and square off every round corner on the car.
The Dodge Viper SRT should be the square-jawed bad boy of the gym who spends way oto much time pumping iron and grunting like a black bear on a salmon hunt. It should not be a Ferrari fighter or even an American version of a Nissan GT-R, or Porsche 911.
Does Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy go and tear it up on the racetrack? No. Why bother when you can cruise to Sturgis in style with your babe on the back of your bike. That’s what the Viper should be all about. All attitude and All-American straight line speed. Sure, there will be plenty of guys who’ll want to race one around a track. Let them figure it out for themselves. They’ll sort our the suspension and tuning and eventually tear up the track with 807 Hellcat Viper HP.
Like a motorcycle, the less you have around you the more fun you have in a car. The answer is simple. Just look at the original prototype car above. The current Viper’s roof is sloped so low that anyone over 6 feet tall has to drive it like my mom with their nose pressed up against the windshield. Also, a convertible would help vent some of the excess heat put out by those massive side pipes that make your feet boil while the air conditioner freezes your head.
Finally, and this may be tricky, the Hellcat Viper has to be priced under a $100K. Damn, this is ‘Merica the home of Walmart and cheap burgers at McDonald’s. We don’t do hoity-toity super cars. We do big, bold and badass. Think of the SVT Ford Raptor if you want something similar as a design muse.
There you have it, Ralph.
Now you just need to convince Sergio to free up a couple hundred million Euros for the mid-cycle refresh. It shouldn’t be that hard. You won’t have to convince him anymore that you will be cannibalizing sales from Maserati or Ferrari.
Good Luck! We’ll be cheering for you.